Serena Williams on Why She Designs for Women Who Want to "Be Seen and Be Heard"
I'm on the phone with Serena Williams three days before her opening round at this year's U.S. Open in New York City. She's talking about the kind of woman her new clothing brand, Serena, is designed for—but she may as well be talking about herself. "Our customer is someone who believes in themselves and who is unapologetically into fashion; they're not afraid to make a statement, be bold, and they're not afraid to be seen and be heard," Williams told Who What Wear. After all, you don't win a staggering 23 Grand Slams without a hefty dose of belief in yourself—and you don't step onto the court wearing everything from a catsuit to a tutu without wanting to be seen.
Not all of her customers are going to wake up with the same self-assuredness of a tennis icon, but her effortlessly cool clothes can help. "We make designs for women who are feeling confident or who aren't necessarily feeling confident that day but want to, so they wear our clothes," Williams told me.
First launched at the end of May, the Serena brand consists of a mix of on-trend pieces (bike shorts and acid-wash jeans) and timeless staples (T-shirts and pencil skirts). Naturally, this blend is a reflection of Williams's own personal style. "I definitely enjoy keeping up with trends, but with a classic twist," she told Who What Wear. This past weekend, the brand dropped new denim styles and also celebrated its first pop-up shop at Tictail in New York City, where Williams is currently chasing her seventh U.S. Open trophy.
Read on for everything I gleaned from my interview Williams, including the one item that was inspired by her friend Meghan Markle, the piece every NYC girl should own, and more.
On Williams: Nike x Virgil Abloh dress
What did you decide to start this new brand?
I decided to start this line because I love fashion. I studied fashion in school at the Art Institute. I've always done it—I've designed a lot of stuff for Nike. As you know, I did my own collection with HSN. I wanted to do something where I'm making all the decisions and being the creative director, so it was time to move out on my own. That's pretty much what I did.
How would you describe New York City style? Why do you think your collection will resonate with New York City women?
I find our style is really perfect for all kinds of women. The pieces we chose for our pop-up shop really go with the New York City woman because a lot of the styles are super comfortable and also flexible. In New York, you'll be walking from the office to a bar and you want to be able to have that flexibility.
Which item do you think NYC women will be buying the most of and why?
A couple come to mind. The slip dress is super awesome. I saw a lot of women buying it. It's an unbelievable fit. We should have called it Not Your Average Slip Dress because we used a silk crepe instead of regular silk, and it has more texture to it. It's a little different. It has a slit that goes down the front. It's perfect for this time of year in New York. Also, our jeans are something the New York woman can wear because they are really good fitting jeans; they're nice and high-waisted. You can dress them up and go to the bar.
What's the best-selling item from your brand right now?
Our tops sell really well, and we bring out special editions. Right now, we have a special edition New York top for the U.S. Open. We had one from London that sold out in like 20 minutes, so we wanted to bring it back for the Open, but a different version. Our tops are incredibly soft. I literally sleep in my tops because they're so soft. I think because of that, it's one of our best sellers.
What's your number one favorite denim trend for fall and why?
My favorite denim trend is what we're doing with our oversize jackets; that really cool oversize boyfriend jacket. You can literally wear it with so many different things.
What do you think is the most universally flattering jeans shape and why?
Anything high-waisted, right? Whether you're pear-shaped or apple or square, everyone really looks good in the high waist; it really accents your look. Our jeans are high-waisted so it works out perfectly.
What denim trends are you not a fan of?
I would say I love all denim trends. I love all styles of denim. Our first denim collection is fit to be different and be bold and make a statement—going back to "be seen and be heard." I was looking at this old photo of men sitting on the high-rise having lunch, you know that famous photo from the '30s? I was like, wow that's crazy, they're all wearing jeans. I thought that's interesting. I wanted to make jeans you could actually do work in. I was also inspired by the '80s in terms of our wash. And they fit really well, whether you have curves or are a size two.
How was the Royal Duchess hoodie inspired by Meghan Markle?
It was just a great moment with Meghan and her wedding and knowing how happy she was, so I just thought of [the collection] as being super royal. We sent her our royal collection, which was funny.
Besides the hoodie, what other items would be Markle's favorite?
I would say our button-down top, the Tribeca Button-Down Shirt. I think that would be really nice on her. Also our straight-cut skirt.
I love the bike shorts in the collection, but it can be a tricky trend some women might be afraid to try. What's your advice on the best way to style bike shorts, and why do you think women should give them a try?
We styled it for you; you can buy the top that goes with it. I love bike shorts. When I was growing up, they were so so popular. When they became trendy again, that was one of the first things [I wanted to include in the collection]. They are really cool. Ours are high-waisted, so we pair them with a crop top, but honestly, there are so many ways to wear it—maybe also with a long, open flowy coat.
On Williams: Serena Standout Midi Pencil Skirt in Red ($90)
Shop Serena Williams's Brand
Opening Image: Getty Images